Around the State

CHARLESTON – An architect says moving the West Virginia Schools for the Deaf and Blind to another location could cost nearly $100 million.

That’s about $18 million more than it would cost to renovate or replace the existing facilities in Romney.

David Ferguson with ZMM Architects and Engineers of Charleston said his financial recommendation would be to keep the schools Romney.

ZMM Architects developed the schools’ master plan. Superintendent Lyn Boyer asked Ferguson to research a potential move after the proposal came up at the state Board of Education’s January meeting.

The schools have been in Romney since 1870. Some of the 19 buildings in use are original structures, dating to before the Civil War. None of the buildings are less than 20 years old.


Few have cash cushion: Nearly half of West Virginians have almost no savings to carry them through crises such as the loss of a job or a serious health problem, the Corporation for Enterprise Development said in a new report.

Forty-seven percent of residents have no financial cushion, including a majority of residents who live below the federal poverty level of $23,050 for a family of four, the organization said in its 2013 Assets & Opportunity Scorecard, which was released last week.

The report called people who cannot pay basic living expenses for just three months “liquid-asset poor.” A family of four needs more than $5,762 in savings to meet basic needs for three months.

“In order to cope with the recession’s continued impact, these families have had to prioritize today’s expenses over tomorrow’s goals,” said Andrea Levere, the organization’s president.

West Virginia was ranked 23rd among the states and the District of Columbia for residents’ ability to become financially secure.

The report recommended several policy solutions, including increasing the state minimum wage and create a self-employment assistance program.

“The Assets for All Coalition is committed to working with the West Virginia Legislature to enact laws that would promote the financial security of low-wealth persons,’’ said Michelle Foster of the West Virginia Assets for All Coalition. “We will particularly be focusing on legislation that would invest in entrepreneurship, increase incomes, connect residents to the financial mainstream, protect homeowners and build assets.”

The report evaluated 53 measures, including home ownership, low-wage jobs and the rate of uninsured low-income children.


Home confinement suicide: A man’s death while on house arrest has prompted a change in Harrison County’s home confinement system.

Sheriff Albert Marano says officers didn’t know 26-year-old Michael Joseph Kelly had left his house to buy alcohol because the battery in his monitoring bracelet had died.

Kelly’s mother found him hanged in his home on Jan. 7. The medical examiner’s office ruled the death as a suicide.

Marano said investigators believe Kelly didn’t recharge the battery after an indicator alerted it was low the night of Jan. 6. Investigators also believe the battery died while the bracelet was trying to transmit an alert to Kelly’s home confinement officer.

Marano says a rule change now makes it a violation to allow a monitoring unit’s battery to die.


Seven years in sex case: A Massachusetts woman who posed as a teenage boy to prey on a Lewis County girl will spend more than seven years in prison.

In Clarksburg last week, U.S. District Judge Irene Keeley ordered 25-year-old Carissa Hads of Quincy to serve 87 months.

Hads pleaded guilty last fall to traveling across state lines with the intention of having sex with a minor.

Investigators say Hads pretended to be an 18-year-old male on a social networking site and started a relationship with the victim in 2010. The two communicated for more than a year before their first in-person meeting.

A State Police investigator said Hads wore a back brace to cover her chest.

She visited the 15-year-old girl at least three times, once at a Pittsburgh motel.


Serious green: A Barbour County fourth-grader has a cabbage plant to thank for a $1,000 college scholarship.

Katelyn Cross, a student at Belington Elementary School, took part in the Bonnie Plants Cabbage Program, which aims to help young people learn about gardening.

More than 1.5 million third-graders in 48 states – including more than 4,000 West Virginia students – gave the project a try last year.

Officials at the West Virginia Department of Agriculture held a random drawing to select Cross as the state’s winner.


Commissioner wants more: A Mineral County commissioner says he’ll remain in his county position if he’s elected to the Ridgeley Town Council.

Commissioner Richard Lechliter, a Republican with a background in forestry, says the state’s ethics law wouldn’t prevent him from serving in both positions because they’re part time.

Lechliter is seeking one of the council’s five seats in the June 11 election.

Lechliter was Ridgeley’s mayor when he was elected to the County Commission in 2011. He left that position because the Secretary of State’s Office told him that the two offices aren’t compatible.

However, he says he could serve as council member and a county commissioner at the same time.


3 sheriffs decry gun control: Boone County Sheriff Randall White has sent a letter to President Barack Obama voicing his opposition to proposed federal gun control legislation.

White and other West Virginia sheriffs have come out saying they won’t enforce any laws that they believe violate the Second Amendment right to bear arms.

White said the government should instead focus on the small number of people who commit crimes involving guns.

Raleigh County Sheriff Steve Tanner said his view is that he’s charged with defending the U.S. Constitution, including the Second Amendment.

Putnam County Sheriff Steve DeWeese says people have the right to bear arms and to defend themselves, especially in their homes.


Bishop seeks protection for gays: The spiritual leader of the Episcopal Church in West Virginia is appealing anew to political leaders to change the state’s human rights law to include protections for gay men and lesbians.

Bishop Rev. Michie Klusmeyer has issued similar pleas over the past few years. He wants a change in the state’s human rights law to make it consistent with the Federal Hate Crimes Law.

Klusmeyer has written to Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin and the Legislature. He said he’s received some positive responses from lawmakers as well as some “nasty’’ replies.

The diocese Klusmeyer oversees includes 70 congregations and nearly 10,000 members.

— Compiled by Christine Miller Ford, with information from The Associated Press

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